The in­dus­try that’s tough­ing it out

Se­cu­rity-firm own­ers the Conns say the slump could help them. By Candice Krieger

The Jewish Chronicle - - Business -

THE RE­CES­SION COULD rede­fine the sta­tus of the se­cu­rity in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly among the Jewish com­mu­nity, say for­mer po­lice­men Adam and Nick Conn.

The Lon­don-based broth­ers run pri­vate se­cu­rity firm Close Cir­cuit. Founded in 2004, it pro­vides se­cu­rity to wealthy in­di­vid­u­als, schools, sites and events, and of­fers train­ing to as­pir­ing se­cu­rity pro­fes­sion­als. To­day, it is a mil­lion-pound busi­ness and the duo say they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a 30 per cent in­crease in in­quiries on last year. The rea­son? Peo­ple who have been made re­dun­dant — Jews among them — are turn­ing to se­cu­rity as a sta- ble job op­tion in the re­ces­sion. “There are two growth ar­eas in the re­ces­sion,” says Nick, 27, who joined Close Cir­cuit around eight months ago to de­velop its train­ing divi­sion. “One is care and the other is se­cu­rity.” Adam, 30, ex­plains: “While I don’t think se­cu­rity, or any com­pany, is re­ces­sion-proof, peo­ple are al­ways go­ing to need se­cu­rity.

“Wealthy peo­ple still have their money and want it looked af­ter, and un­for­tu­nately some peo­ple that have lost a lot turn to crime. Busi­nesses can’t de­mand the po­lice 24-hours-a-day, so they will use se­cu­rity. And a lot of construction sites are cut­ting back on builders, so there is the need to call in se­cu­rity to over­see sites. Pre­vi­ously, this would have been the builder’s re­spon­si­bil­ity.” He adds: “Se­cu­rity is an in­dus­try that will main­tain a busy peak. It will stay turn­ing over nicely.”

Ac­cord­ing to Nick, peo­ple from highly-skilled pro­fes­sions — le­gal, bank­ing, man­age­ment — are be­ing made re­dun­dant and ap­proach­ing them for train­ing.

The com­pany has se­cured ac­cess to the gov­ern­ment’s £1bn in­vest­ment fund, launched to in­vest in busi­nesses with high growth po­ten­tial and help com­bat un­em­ploy­ment, which, at 2.4 mil­lion, is at its high­est level since 1995. They plan to use this pot to of­fer an un­lim­ited num­ber of six-month ap­pren­tice­ships worth £25,000 to the ris­ing num­ber of job­less peo­ple aged 17-24. Re­cent statis­tics from the Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics in­di­cated that 722,000 peo­ple aged 16 to 24 were out of work, while 206,000 peo­ple aged 16 to 18 are out of work.

The broth­ers be­lieve the ap­pren­tice­ships are the ideal op­por­tu­nity for those seek­ing a job. “Even if it’s not full­time, it could earn them a bit of money in qui­eter pe­ri­ods,” says Adam, who lives in Kings Lan­g­ley. In fact, Nick says that many peo­ple are us­ing se­cu­rity as a step­ping stone un­til they get into the de­sired in­dus­try of their choice. He says any job that is re­cruit­ing when other busi­nesses are not will be ap­peal­ing.

The ba­sic salary can range be­tween £20,000 and £40,000 and at a more skilled level, such as close pro­tec­tion, from £40,000 to above £80,000. The hourly rate is be­tween £10 and £15.

Jewish peo­ple are par­tic­u­larly suited to the se­cu­rity in­dus­try says Nick, adding that there is a “100 per cent mis­con­cep­tion” about the pro­fes­sion.

“Peo­ple think that se­cu­rity is about be­ing big and tough. This is not the case. For ex­am­ple, when you are se­cur­ing a rich Arab who has come over here, be­ing re­ally big and dressed in a suit will just draw at­ten­tion to the per­son you are guard­ing.

“A lot of what we do in­volves talk­ing and calm­ing the sit­u­a­tion down. Jewish peo­ple are nat­u­rally good at talk­ing, un­der­stand­ing and em­pathis­ing. Th­ese peo­ple skills are the most im­por­tant part of se­cu­rity. It’s about pro­fes­sion­al­ism, not ‘toughism’.”

He adds: “The train­ing that Close Cir­cuit gives is to the high­est stan­dard and in­cludes learn­ing to deal with bomb threats, con­trol­ling ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour, ter­ror­ism, con­flict man­age­ment, hostage ne­go­ti­a­tion and more. We ex­pect peo­ple to know noth­ing and en­vis­age them be­com­ing the best.”

Close Cir­cuit has close to 200 clients, in­clud­ing the NHS, St Pan­cras In­ter­na­tional sta­tion and the Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects. It has also se­cured a £500,000 con­tract with construction firm McNi­cholas. An­nual turnover has grown from £40,000 in year one to more than £1.5m, and with the ap­proach­ing 2010 Olympics — a poten- tial £2m-or £3m-worth of ex­tra an­nual busi­ness — it is hardly sur­pris­ing that the Conns are up­beat about the fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The Home Of­fice has re­port­edly al­lo­cated £300 mil­lion for se­cu­rity for the 2012 Olympics, which is likely to re­quire 10,000 se­cu­rity staff. Al­though G4S, the world’s lead­ing in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity group, have the prin­ci­pal ten­der, Close Cir­cuit is hop­ing to pro­vide con­tract staff. “We are pre­par­ing for that,” says Adam, who iden­ti­fies bar­mitz­vahs as an ad­di­tional grow­ing area. “It’s weird — a lot of peo­ple have started hav­ing se­cu­rity at the func­tion venues, more as a door host, to pre­vent kids and gate crash­ers.”

All this must seem a far cry from 2004 when Adam left the po­lice force af­ter a seven-year stint to set up the com­pany with, as he puts it, ab­so­lutely no money at all. “I built a web­site and then spent all of my days off dur­ing the po­lice cold-call­ing com­pa­nies. I was do­ing about 100 a day.”

His big break came when a bar in the City agreed to meet him and he se­cured his first con­tract. As for the fu­ture, the plan, say the broth­ers, is to keep grow­ing and not nec­es­sar­ily sell out. In the mean­time they are ac­tively tar­get­ing 17-to 24-year-olds. “We would love to see this age group get­ting into se­cu­rity,” says Nick.

A ca­reer in se­cu­rity is “not just about be­ing big and tough”, say in­dus­try ex­perts Adam and Nick Conn

Close Cir­cuit’s Adam and Nick Conn

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